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'Racism nothing new in NZ rugby' - Fatialofa

Published: 10:52AM Thursday April 12, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

A former Auckland teammate and personal friend of Pat Lam says racism is nothing new in New Zealand rugby.

Peter Fatialofa, who played 72 games for Auckland from 1985 to 1993 and captained Samoa in the 1991 World Cup, said he had experience of racism when he was coaching the third-division King Country side in the early 2000s.

His comments come after Blues coach Pat Lam came close to tears in front of media yesterday, when he spoke of how racially-charged criticism had deeply upset his parents.

Fatialofa today recounted a player being racially abused by a spectator in the crowd. He said it was a difficult time for both the player and himself as coach.

"One of my players said he was frustrated playing for this team because he was getting abuse from the sideline," Fatialofa said.

"I just had to tell him we're here to do a job and if we win more games we'll get more friends."

Fatialofa said there is racism in the sport, and players and coaches who are targeted just have to ignore it and focus on rugby.

"There are people who will take a cheap shot at you. The player got really frustrated."

Fatialofa has also come out in support of Lam, whom he has known for more than twenty years.

"Pat's been through some tough times in his life," Fatialofa said.

"He's committed himself to the Blues and he's played so many games for Auckland. To see him react like that yesterday - I really felt sorry for him."

"There's got to be a barrier where you step back and say it's just a game and it shouldn't affect the family." 

He also condemned the racist comments, saying social media was a "cheap way to throw a punch without them seeing it coming".

Fatialofa believes the Blues will recover from their form slump under Lam.

"I remember a year ago, everyone was talking about how Pat was doing a really great job in Super XV," he said.

"First year in NPC, he was talked about as being the successor to Graham Henry. They've just got to keep working hard."